CAQ promises deeper school tax cuts than Liberals

The Coalition Avenir Québec vows to slash school taxes further than the Liberals intend to do, as the two parties go head to head over which will put more money back into voters’ pockets.

With reigning Liberals rebounding in polls, CAQ says it will put more money back in homeowners' pockets

CAQ Leader François Legault is promising to go further than the Liberals in reforming the school tax system, harmonizing the taxation rate right across Quebec over four years. (CBC)

The Coalition Avenir Québec is promising to slash school taxes further than the Liberals intend to do, as the two parties go head to head over which will put more money back into voters' pockets.

"We've always tried to lower Quebecers' tax burden," said CAQ finance critic François Bonnardel.

Bonnardel said the Liberals have taken the CAQ's ideas and are reaping the benefits. 

The ruling Liberals have been steadily parcelling out tax cuts since their last budget, picking up the pace last fall when they announced a plan to harmonize the school tax in each region.

The strategy may be paying off. After lagging behind the CAQ in some fall polls, the two parties are now neck and neck, according to the latest Mainstreet survey.

CAQ vows cut deeper than Liberals

The CAQ countered on Tuesday with their own school tax cut announcement at a Sainte-Adèle caucus retreat.

It promised to go further than the Liberals, whose Bill 166, tabled in December, would see school boards receive $670 million in subsidies to make up for lost tax revenue from the harmonization plan.

"The Liberals announced a supposedly important drop in school board taxes," said CAQ leader François Legault. However, he said the Liberals' plan to set tax rates by region will still lead to substantial discrepancies across the province.

"How can they explain to their voters in the Mauricie that they will pay three times the rate that is paid here in the Laurentians? It doesn't make sense," he said.

Instead, Legault said, over four years, a CAQ government would move towards a single rate for all property owners in Quebec, set at 10.54 cents per $100 property evaluation.

That move would save property taxpayers $700 million — an amount that would be made up to schools from the government's general coffers.

People living in rural Quebec, where property values tend to be much lower than in the cities, would see their school tax bills fall dramatically.

But Legault says that's only fair.

"If a person decides to live in a faraway region, I don't see why that person would have to pay a tax rate that is different," he said.

The CAQ still plans to eliminate Quebec's 72 school boards, as it vowed to do in the 2014 election campaign, replacing them with what it calls "regional service centres."